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Thames Valley businesses struggling to implement hybrid working

By Kani Talabani
18 January 2022

New research from Grant Thornton UK LLP’s latest Business Outlook Tracker has revealed that, prior to the implementation of ‘Plan B’ and the return of work from home guidance, a hybrid working approach was being adopted by many mid-market firms in the Thames Valley, but that some were still facing challenges with its implementation.

Hybrid and remote working is going to remain the norm for many businesses, with Boris Johnson confirming that ‘Plan B’ and its work from home guidance is going to stay in force until at least the end of January.

Hybrid working, where people split time between working remotely and in an office, was the most common working practice in early December, with the research finding 96% of the region’s mid-market businesses surveyed operating in this manner. Despite this, many were found to still be adapting to the approach. 

The research highlighted that one of the most problematic hybrid working challenges was ensuring a high level of staff welfare, with almost half (46%) of respondents saying that mental wellbeing issues such as reducing isolation and anxiety levels were a primary concern under the current circumstances.

Managing the work of junior staff has also proved to be a key challenge, with 44% of respondents in the Thames Valley region who were adopting hybrid working stating that this was an issue.

Given the wellbeing and management difficulties combined with employees spending protracted periods of time apart, it was considered unsurprising that loss of culture was another hybrid working obstacle identified by 40% of business leaders.

Jim Rogers, practice leader for Grant Thornton in the Thames Valley, commented: “Many of us have seen significant changes in our working patterns since the pandemic began, with remote and hybrid working becoming the new normal. This has led to a variety of benefits to companies and their people, from saving costs on reduced office space to a better work-life balance. However, it’s evident that many firms in the Thames Valley area are still facing a number of challenges with its implementation.

“Ensuring a high standard of mental wellbeing can be particularly tough in the current circumstances, as can properly supporting younger team members who may well just be starting out on their career. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these problems unfortunately, as it takes a lot of time and commitment as well as a clear understanding of each firm’s unique practicalities to make hybrid working truly effective.

“Right now, the whole market is on a steep learning curve and trying to ensure that their people continue to feel connected and supported by their business and their teams, wherever they work. Moving forward, companies need to stay flexible as to how their hybrid working approach can be made more effective, which could take the form of investing in new technology or finding new ways to train, organise and co-ordinate teams.”

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